Despite the best efforts of industry, trade associations, skills councils, trade unions and Governments, the consensus is that more still needs to be done to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in schools within the region.
Companies within our industry have an obvious vested interest in fostering these skills as they are the skills that will embody our future employees, innovators and developers in the industry. The key issue is how to make a career in electronics and technology a more appealing prospect for students, particularly girls, who are increasingly turning away from STEM subjects.
There are many initiatives that can be undertaken, that could also tie in with your organisation’s corporate social responsibility mandate. Here we outline a few initiatives that would encourage more engagement in STEM.
- Sponsor an annual science fair – A science fair is important in increasing students’ interest in STEM fields and engaging them in problem solving. Not only do fairs impact knowledge in the subject matter, but participating students get to practice social skills like working in groups and making presentations which have a positive influence on confidence levels as well. Join in support of any on-going national science fairs or if there aren’t any, your organisation can be instrumental in creating a fair that is anticipated every year.
- Aid the digitization of schools – Support a local school with limited access to technology by providing tablets and laptops to teachers and students. Laptops and tablets enable an interactive and engaging way to learn and bring various subjects to life. As well, having solid experience using these devices is a necessary skill for the current job market. An education in STEM is only made possible by these tools and access to them.
- Engage students through competition – A lot of what we do in our industry involves problem solving. Help to nurture this skill through competition. Pose a problem and encourage students to find an innovative solution. Competition challenges students to develop academically, build mental toughness and helps improve teamwork and collaboration. All skills and characteristics that we know are important as employees within the electricity sector.
- Build an interactive lab – An interactive lab can be a space available to students where they can get hands-on access to tech like robotics, 3D printing and virtual reality. These tools are not readily accessible to most but can be a game changer in increasing knowledge, skill and engagement in STEM.
- Work alongside teachers and curriculum developers – Fostering a close relationship with teachers and curriculum developers is important in ensuring that students are taught the skills and know-how that would be valuable in the working world. Bridging the gap between what is taught and what is useful out in the field would result in more fulfilled future employees and effective operations.
- Educational tours of your facility – Educational tours allow students to soak in fresh experiences and use them to enhance and inspire their career prospects. A tour of your facility would be a great opportunity to learn in an informal environment and immerse them in the practical knowledge attained in the real world.
- Create an after-school community-based learning club – Provide an avenue to help empower young people in under-served communities to develop the skills needed for a career in STEM. Often students need additional teaching assistance beyond the normal school hours. An after-school center can boost academic performance, reduce risky behaviours, promote physical health and provide a safe and structured learning environment for students within the community.
- Scholarship programme for promising students studying STEM – Reward students who have demonstrated exceptional promise in the STEM fields with a scholarship for further study. Providing access to education through scholarships is an investment in the future of a student who shows passion for STEM and is increasingly important as you assist them in realizing their dreams and reaching their fullest potential.
- Support a local organisation – Supporting a local organisation that is already doing substantial in its efforts to educate youth in STEM subjects is an excellent way to encourage engagement in STEM. No need to start a programme of your own if there are on-going programmes already making a difference. Providing monetary assistance will help these organisations reach an even wider audience.
- An internship and mentorship programme – Encourage your employees to be more hands on in the development of select students with an interest in your field. An internship helps integrate classroom knowledge and theory with practical application and skills developed in professional settings. Students can earn experience while getting the support through mentors, that facilitates success beyond graduation.